Diet effects brain development in early pregnancy


Most people are aware that diet during pregnancy affects both mother and baby. The development of the baby and the health of the mother are directly related to diet. However, new studies with a primate model show that a reduction in diet during early pregnancy greatly impacts neural development.

The researchers from The University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio found decreased formation of cell-to-cell connections, cell division and amounts of growth factors in the fetuses of mothers fed a reduced diet during the early months of pregnancy. "This is a critical time window when many of the neurons as well as the supporting cells in the brain are born," said Peter Nathanielsz, MD, PhD, director of the Center for Pregnancy and Newborn Research in the Health Science Center school of Medicine.

"Our collaboration allowed us to determine that the nutritional environment impacts the fetal brain at both the cellular and molecular levels," said SFBR's Laura Cox, PhD. "That is, we found dysregulation of hundreds of genes, many of which are known to be key regulators in cell growth and development, indicating that nutrition plays a major role during fetal development by regulating the basic cellular machinery."

Keep in mind, this is moderate reduction in diet. This is not starvation seen in third world countries, but the kind of hunger which can be found in industrialized nations. Senior author Thomas McDonald, PhD, said the study "is the first demonstration of major effects caused by the levels of food insecurity that occur in sections of US society and demonstrates the vulnerability of the fetus to moderate reduction in nutrients."

This kind of developmental programming which occurs in early brain development plays a role in obesity, diabetes and heart disease. It could also be a factor in autism, depression, schizophrenia and other neurological disorders.

Source: University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, ScienceDaily


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